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Ask Doctor Donohoe - kids & MVC

Ask Doctor Donohoe

I’ve been in practice now for 15 years. Over all those years I’ve been asked to answer LOTS of questions. Neighbors Newspaper has graciously agreed to open up their publication to me and YOU! We will be accepting questions on all subjects health related. As readers of my column already know, I specialize in pediatric and pre-natal chiropractic care. However, my office is a family practice. I take care of patients young, old and everyone in between. We invite your questions on health and fitness, diet and nutrition, kids care, adult care and any alternative medicine issue. Please email your questions to I will try to answer one or two every month in this column.

Question: Submitted by Rebecca D.
​I was involved in an auto accident 3 weeks ago in which I was rear-ended. My three children were with me in the car ages 7, 4 and 2. I had suffered with neck pain and headaches since the accident, but I’m improving since starting care with a chiropractor. My mom mentioned that perhaps I should have my kids checked by the chiropractor too. I was wondering if kids are injured to the same degree in this kind of accident as adults and if I should have them checked?

Be on the safe side and have them checked over by a chiropractor that specializes in pediatric care. Children are not merely small adults, but rather their body is very different than ours. The primary challenge that we encounter with children involved in accidents, especially the very young ones, is their inability to properly communicate their symptoms to parents or physicians. Even in the absence of complaints, the child’s spine or extremity joints can demonstrate dysfunction that may catch up to them down the road and have long term consequences to their health.

Symptoms such as irritability, lethargy, poor feeding and restlessness may the only evidence that an infant or toddler has suffered injury. Among older kids, symptoms can include fatigue, headache, and neck pain or reduced range of motion.

Injuries suffered in a collision may not be evident for weeks after an accident. Soft tissue injury to muscles and ligaments of the spine can, over time, cause problems with the normal curvatures of the spine which can lead to symptoms down the road. We see this all the time in adult patients too. It can lead to an accelerated rate of spinal joint and disc degeneration.

I just recently started working with a young athlete who at the young age of 20 is demonstrating degeneration of his cervical discs that would be expected to be seen in a man 3 times his age due to normal wear and tear. This young man’s present condition we linked back to a roll over accident on an ATV some 10 years ago. If the spinal injury would have been identified and corrected at the time of the injury, this young man would have been able to maintain his full strength and flexibility throughout his athletic career.

Well documented in the pediatric literature is the need to have a detailed and thorough spinal examination completed after motor vehicle collision. Children have greater spinal flexibility than adults. The fact that the child’s spine can deform up to two inches without damaging the spinal vertebrae (fracture) combined with the fact that the spinal cord can only deform up to ½ inch indicates that spinal cord injury is far more common in collisions than actual spinal vertebrae fracture.

As a result of this potential for nervous system injury, the examination of a child involved in a motor vehicle collision should not only include spinal examination , but also nervous system evaluation. As a spinal specialist, the pediatric chiropractor is specially trained to provide an accurate and thorough examination of the spine and nervous system in an infant or child involved in a motor vehicle collision and provide the necessary treatment to regain full function.

No article on kids in accidents would be complete without the mention of proper child restraint. There are systems available to protect children of all ages and sizes during a motor vehicle collision. They must be employed properly to perform as they were designed and protect your child in the event of a collision! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website ( provides all the information needed on choosing and using the right car seat for children of all ages.

Thanks again for the question Rebecca! If you have a question you’d like Dr. Donohoe to answer, just email us at and maybe you’ll see your answer in print next month!

Dr. Donohoe is a family practice chiropractor who specializes in the unique needs of pregnant women and children. His office is located at 41880 Kalmia St., Suite 135 in Murrieta. He can be reached at 951-677-6500 or through his website at

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